DENHAM SPRINGS – Soon, when it comes to car shopping, the directions could be, “Go to Livingston Parish, exit off I-12.”

All Star Automotive Group broke ground on March 16 for its Nissan car dealership at the Juban Road intersection with Interstate 12.

And according to its top official, that will double its auto franchises in the parish.

“We’re excited about today,” said Matt McKay, chairman/president and CEO of All Star Automotive Group, to an audience featuring Livingston Parish municipal and parish officials, Nissan representatives and his own All Star employees.

“We’ve been in Livingston Parish since 1990,” McKay said, standing in front of a long row of gold shovels topped by white hard hats. “We’ve watched Livingston Parish for years and there is more growth to come.

“There were some obstacles in the past year,” he said, “But we are in a great location.”

All Star is moving its Nissan and Kia franchises from Florida Boulevard to the Juban Road intersection, giving McKay four franchises in Denham Springs by consecutive interstate exits.

They will be offering Fords, Dodges, Chryslers, Jeeps, Nissans and Kias, he added.

“We got a good start with the weather. All the contracts for construction are lined up,” said Dennis Carlin, chief operations officer for All Star. “We’re waiting to get started.”

McKay said work should begin this week on the support shafts, which will lead to slab work.

November is the target date for completion, McKay said, but just opening a car dealership does not guarantee success.

“We’ve got to earn their business,” he said about his Livingston Parish market.

Governmental officials praised, and welcomed, All Star’s expansion into the parish.

“Auto sales a large part of what have kept tax revenue afloat in our parish after the flood, and now they’re going to contribute in an even bigger way to our economic development,” Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks said.

“What we’re seeing here today signifies why Livingston Parish is going to be far stronger and better than ever before.”

Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry added, “We’re very excited to have this new location here in Livingston Parish – it’s one of the best things to happen in quite some time.

“I understand the expanded service area at this location will be able to accommodate 1,000 more cars than the Baton Rouge location,” Landry said. “I don’t how you’ll service a thousand more cars in a month – with cars as dependable as Nissans, you won’t need repairs.”

When the Nissan location is up and running, it will employ 100 people, McKay said.

“This will have better visibility. You will see it as you drive by,” McKay said, gesturing to the traffic passing on Interstate 12.

“We’re going to be able to give a lot of other areas a run for the money with this location,” said April Wehrs, Livingston Parish Chamber of Commerce president/CEO.

“It’s a top-notch, beautiful facility, and with all the businesses along Interstate 12, they’ve selected a great location.

“Other chambers around the country are saying we’ve hit it out the park with recovery, resilience and the return of businesses,” Wehrs said. “They’re really impressed and consider us well above the norm.”

Of the 12-acre development, “Nine acres will be concrete,” Carlin said. There will be 450 parking spaces for cars and 350 more for used cars, customer and employee parking.

The dealership’s building will offer the cutting-edge design of Nissan, according to Chris Cobb, regional operations director for Nissan North America.

“The new design is the world design that can be found in China and India; it’s a global branding,” he said.

The building design has been used in this country only five times, and three in the central region, McKay said, the seven states – including Louisiana – that have 170 Nissan dealers.

“This will be the first store of its kind in Louisiana; it’s an exciting time,” McKay said. “The design will make it inviting for customers to shop. It will be a good place to do business.”

The service department will be able to handle 1,000 cars a month, he said.

And as All Star expands in the parish, it will take a larger role in the community, McKay said.

The CEO said an aunt and uncle lived on River Road in Denham Springs in the 1983 flooding, so he was aware of the devastation brought by August’s flooding.

“It was an interesting six to eight weeks. We don’t want to do it again,” McKay said.

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